New to camcorders please help


mot man

Hello everyone, :lease: help as I am a camcorder virgin.
At the moment we are living in Cyprus and send friends and family Photoslide svcd's made on Nero, now we would like to move into this century and create dvd recordings to send to them, however I have no idea what is good, or what is not.
Dixons have an offer on at the moment Hitachi DZBX35EUK with bag,dvd's and card for £279.00.
I have looked at other camcorders and tried to compare them but now am totally confused, the price looks good to me but is the camcorder?
I am not aiming to be Steven Spielberg but would like to take reasonable video and be able to add transitions, music, etc, similar to the photoslide.
When I look at the specs of this in comparison to others the inputs/outputs are S-video & composite AV output, what are they? it doesn't mention anywhere about usb connectivity or firewire, does this mean I can't connect the camcorder to my pc and edit footage.
If this is the case does anyone do an editing package that allows you to remove the dvd from the cam and edit it before burning the disc, it does say easy edit feature but I imagine this will be on camera and will not allow me to introduce music etc, If this is not a good buy could anyone suggest a good alternative in a similar price range.
Sorry to have dragged on but :rolleyes: I am as thick as i appear.
Thank you


Distinguished Member
Before deciding on a specific model, consider the various formats: MiniDV (tape), DVD, and HDD.

You can create a DVD from all 3 formats. MiniDV is easiest to edit, and also generally the best quality for the money at any given budget. HDD and DVD can also be good quality but to match the quality of a DV cam tend to cost more – they bring you some convenience for that. DVD you can shoot, finalise the disc, and play immediately in any DVD player, you can also do some edits on the cam. You are limited to 20 mins per DVD in best format. HDD you can edit on the cam, and don’t need any media – can shoot for hours. If you don’t have a preference, plan to edit, and want the best quality for the money I’d go with MiniDV.

Back to that specific Hitachi – I’m not familiar with that model, but DVD camcorders at that price range generally are not very good for quality. DVD cams generally do not have Firewire… the better ones have USB, cheaper ones don’t. If you have one without USB and want to edit, you can edit by using the DVD on a PC.

The main advantage of a DVD camcorder is the ability to shoot and watch/share immediately. If you think you’ll generally be editing anyway then that advantage is lessened, and a miniDV model may be better.

mot man

Hi Mark,
Many thanks for your speedy reply, how will I know what the video quality is on a particular cam, is there a minimum standard to look out for and what is it called.
If I chose a dvd cam that did not have a usb connector am I right in thinking i can remove dvd and edit it on my computer via a software programme, if so would you know of a reasonable one to use.
In your opinion you would avoid the dvd cam and go for mini dv, is this recorded onto a tape rather than disc? and would this need the same editing software as the dvd?
Finally could you recommend a camcorder or at least the minimum specs to look for.
Many thanks,



Distinguished Member

You are correct that with a DVD camcorder, if the camcorder doesn’t have USB, you can finalise the DVD on the camcorder, remove it and put it in your PC drive, and edit there. You’ll be editing MPEG2, and not all video editors handle this well, but some do. Womble and Ulead Video Studio are two that handle it well.

My opinion is that while DVD camcorders are fine if you want the ability to shoot and immediately share (no editing required).. that you get more camcorder for your money with miniDV… and also miniDV is better for editing (more software that handle it well, better editing performance).

There aren’t any simple specs to look at to compare camcorder quality, it is a range of factors. A couple of items with numbers which make a difference:
- physical size of the CCD. Bigger is better (e.g. 1/3” better than 1/6”)
- The number of CCDs (3 better than 1).
The number of “mega pixels” doesn’t matter for video as the resolution is fixed, it only helps with the stills function of the camcorder.
Other features to consider:
- Is it “true widescreen”? (Shoot widescreen at full quality)
- Does it have DV-in (useful if you want to edit and archive back to tape)
- Does it have AV-in (useful if you want to convert an analogue input, e.g. an old VHS tape, to digital DV format.

You then have to look around for reviews or recommendations. A good site is
It’s not perfect for us as it is US based, and some of the model numbers are different, but they do the most detailed reviews I’ve seen… and they put each camcorder through the same set of tests. They also publish a running league table:

Sony, Panasonic, Canon, and JVC are the big names.

If you are looking to spend something like the price of that Hitachi, Sony HC44/HC46, or Canon MVX 450/460, or Panasonic NV-GS180 are some to consider.

mot man


Thank you again for your very speedy reply to my questions, I will look at the camcorder reviews that you listed.
I am sure I will find the correct camcorder for my budget now I have an idea what to look for.
Thanks once again:thumbsup:



Hi Mark,
After a good few days of searching the web, I have ended up with the Panasonic NV-GS180 at the top of my list followed by Sony HC46E. Obviously 2 different classes of cameras as far as CCds go but then again I can find dozens of reviews on the Sony but nothing on the Panasonic. Can you point me to any good reviews.



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